So you’re thinking of hiring a coding bootcamp graduate, but not sure how to approach it. After speaking with 12 real employers from companies like Cisco, Stack Overflow, and JPMorgan Chase, we’ve compiled the best advice and lessons learned when hiring a coding bootcamp graduate. Following these steps will help you build a diverse, open-minded, loyal engineering team that finds creative solutions to software challenges. If you’re a prospective bootcamp student, this is also for you – these employers also explain why they hire coding bootcamp grads!
1. Research the Top Coding Bootcamps
Many employers suggest researching which bootcamps are training for the skills your company needs, and how their graduates are doing out in the workforce.
At Cisco, the Director of Experience Design, Dustin Beltramo, and Technical Leader, Joe Sutton, have hired four Hack Reactor graduates:
“Not all coding bootcamps are created equal. We recommend talking to colleagues in the industry who have experience with the various programs. We wouldn’t hesitate to hire grads from the best bootcamps, especially Hack Reactor. We find the students are highly motivated and excel in their work, and their training is top-notch. They may seem inexperienced on paper, comparatively, but the best coding bootcamps simulate a real world software development environment for their students, and that experience is incredibly valuable.”
Access Development CTO Clint Peterson hired 6 DevPoint Labs grads in Salt Lake City. He says they’re a “great hiring channel,” but suggests getting personally involved before hiring:
“See if you have relationships with anyone who has been involved with the coding bootcamp. Leverage those relationships to validate the capability of the bootcamp, and then give them a try. Coding bootcamps are a good opportunity to give people a chance to grow and learn, then get meaningful and gainful employment.”
JPMorgan Chase Global Head of Technology Recruiting Strategy, Chuck Xenakis hired 5 Tech Elevator grads:
“Make sure new hires know how to acquire the softer qualities and skills. That means that you can’t just give someone a test and judge their code, but truly dig down to understand how people think and their capability for problem-solving. If you can get that right, you'll very quickly be able to judge the quality of the folks coming out of a coding bootcamp, and that feeds directly into the quality of the curriculum and the instructors.”
2. Implement a robust interview process
Compared to your traditional CS degree hire, coding bootcamp grads often have different backgrounds and unique skill sets. So, many employers recommend creating an interview process that gives a rounded look at all the candidate’s skills.
Insiten CEO Adam Trien has hired 8 software engineers from Atlanta-based DigitalCrafts:
“Have a really thorough interview process. Bootcamp grads typically have portfolio sites and project sites that an employer can review before scheduling an interview. Validate that the candidate has a deep understanding of the technology and assess if they will be a good fit for your team. We are looking for candidates who think on their feet, work well with others, and respond positively to peer reviews and design decisions.”
At Insiten, that assessment looks like this:
“We do “mob interviewing” where a room full of employees ask questions of the candidate. We give applicants a week to complete a coding challenge and then they demo what they built. We ask questions about their design decisions, try to find bugs in the code, then work together on identifying a fix for the issue.”
Coding challenges are traditional, but a company’s skills assessments can vary. Atria Senior Living’s Director of Software Engineering, Amanda Marburger, hired four graduates from The Software Guild’s .NET Bootcamp, and describes their interview process:
“In the interview, we like to ask a lot of situational questions. We are not big proponents of giving a test that the applicant has to pass. Instead, we want to know why they’re switching careers, what interests them about working in software development, what type of environment they thrive in, etc. That gives us a sense of how they would cope in a high-pressure situation, and whether they can keep up with the ever-changing demands which come with IT in general.”
In his previous role at Slack, and now as the Engineering Lead at Checkr, Vannaro Lim has hired a number of Hackbright Academy alumnae:
“The profile of a new hire is going to be different when you’re assessing talent from a senior engineer compared with a junior or new grad. For a new grad position, we’re trying to gauge the probability or likeliness that a person will be able to succeed. We try to test for curiosity, their motivation and determination, and what they bring forward during the interview process. We like to base our hiring decision on a bootcamp grad’s potential rather than what they already know. But our technical interview is no different from the challenges we give to our senior engineers.”
“We aim to look at all the strengths a candidate brings to the table, not just raw technical ability. Above all, we want to hire people who are smart, motivated, positive, and generally awesome to be around. Our interviews involve a code-pairing session where we look to see how the candidate works through a problem. There’s less focus on finding the perfect solution and more focus on the right considerations, asking good questions, making informed choices, etc. Their final projects have all been really impressive, and a great indication of the students’ ability to build complex applications. We also look for the ability to learn quickly and work through challenges.”
Bazaarvoice Talent Acquisition Manager, Travis Baker has hired more than 10 General Assembly graduates into Implementation Engineer and Technical Success roles. His advice:
“Index for skill. Train interviewers, managers, and leaders to interview well – make them experts. Define what a successful hire looks like and measure results. Recognize the unique set of skills these people offer.”
3. Value technical skills, soft skills, and diverse backgrounds
Although bootcamp grads may be lacking in industry experience, they usually have solid technical skills, and if they are career changers, they often have professional experience from other fields. You can bring tons of diversity in thought and background into your company!
AppOnboard Co-founder and CTO, Adam Piechowicz hired a LearningFuze coding bootcamp grad as a multi-disciplinary Creative Engineer:
“I’d absolutely recommend looking to bootcamps for candidates for non-traditional roles that need an unusual mix of skills, or an especial commitment to learning. Many are career-changers who can have surprisingly relevant backgrounds in audio/video, customer service, etc.”
Progressive Insurance IT Manager Jane Gundlach hired 8 Tech Elevator grads:
“Coding bootcamp grads come to the table with a good technical foundation, and on top of that they have life lessons under their belt. They have really strong soft skills already developed that they can demonstrate to you through the interview process. If you're hiring entry level talent, then you've got to consider bootcamps as an additional source of talent. Especially with the talent shortage that we're all facing right now, they really will not disappoint.”
Stack Overflow’s Tech Recruiting Lead Pieter DePree hired grads as apprentices from Fullstack Academy and The Grace Hopper Program:
“There is a lot to be said for hiring people with a diversity of experience. For example, one of our apprentices had a marketing background before he went to Fullstack Academy. That combination of development experience and marketing made him an absolutely perfect fit for a marketing developer role. Hiring people with experience outside of traditional CS backgrounds diversifies the conversation on the team, and helps your team have a wider range of viewpoints.”
“I always recommend that employers not be credentialists. Hire for trajectory and testability, not what college they’ve graduated from when you’re looking at junior developers; that’s the most important thing. You want to see that someone has a clear trajectory of growth, going above and beyond on any projects they’ve tackled.”
Simple Contacts Engineering Manager Emily Maskin:
“An applicant’s earlier experience can definitely help round out their candidacy. One of our Grace Hopper grads was previously a math teacher; another has a background in penetration testing. We’ve ended up with a team with a really wide range of backgrounds, and that has been a huge asset for us.”
4. Be Open Minded
Many employers may feel they only want computer science degree graduates, but employers who interview coding bootcamp graduates often find gems who know their stuff, and make great additions to their teams.
Atria Senior Living’s Director of Software Engineering, Amanda Marburger:
“Try it! What can you lose? Most companies don’t even acknowledge bootcamps as an opportunity, but you can find a lot of gems in bootcamps. It could totally change the way your company runs and hires developers. There has been a stigma around bootcamps. While you can’t cover everything that you could get in a four-year college degree, bootcamp students go through 12-weeks of intensive, full days. That was enough to convince us to try hiring from Software Guild.”
Mobify’s Talent Acquisition Manager, Laura Crawford, hired 4 Lighthouse Labs grads:
“I think being open-minded is important. A lot of coding bootcampers come to your company with rich backgrounds and a lot of knowledge that they can leverage into being successful engineers. Just because their background may not look like the traditional software developer, doesn't mean that they can’t grow into some of your strongest engineers. The best way to find out whether bootcamp graduates area a good fit for you is to dive in and start interviewing!”
Bazaarvoice Talent Acquisition Manager, Travis Baker:
“General Assembly students are looking to build a career and are open and receptive to cool opportunities. Yes, many only want to be developers, period. Others see that software is a great place to be in general and are looking for an opportunity to pivot. Be open to all of them, because they’re smart, hard-working, passionate, and motivated. It’s easy to build from there.”
5. Don’t be afraid to hire and train junior developers
If you have the resources to train them, then Junior Developers can bring a lot of value to your company.
Retsly and Hack Capital founder Kyle Campbell built his engineering teams by hiring 10 developers from Lighthouse Labs in Vancouver:
“Don’t be afraid to hire juniors! I think it’s a toxic mindset to believe that your business priorities cannot allow you to take a step back and look at how you build long term value by developing emerging talent. My advice to companies considering Lighthouse Labs grads, is to constantly invest in your people. Find strong senior engineers who like to mentor, and build a culture focused on making people great around you. If you can take this philosophy and ingrain it in your culture, you will be successful. As long as you’re willing to invest the time and effort into mentoring bootcamp grads, you’ll have team members who greatly respect you, who are completely loyal, and will surprise you consistently with what they are capable of.”
Checkr Engineering Lead Vannaro Lim:
“My advice is to take a chance. All it takes is one senior engineer to help bring a Hackbright Academy engineer up to speed in about three to four months. What they can bring in terms of their thought process and creativity, will speak volumes to the features they are working on.”
Simple Contacts Engineering Manager Emily Maskin:
“Just hiring super-senior ‘10x’ developers will not make for a successful team. We created an amazingly successful, productive, and motivated engineering department by seeking out people from different backgrounds with different strengths. We have very experienced engineers, for sure, but we also have people with awesome design chops, communication skills, and project management abilities. As a manager, if given the choice to lead a group of ‘junior but hardworking and delightful’ developers versus ‘incredible technical expertise but a pain to deal with,’ I will choose junior every time.”
Insiten CEO Adam Trien:
“Invest in developing a solid onboarding process. We have detailed documentation of our infrastructure, branching policies, software development life cycle, best practices, code snippets etc. We assign new hires a mentor when they start for however long they need. We have hired incredibly strong people out of bootcamps, and after a couple of weeks they are ready to work on their own. Having senior developers who can help with code reviews is a big part of how we train by giving new hires continuous feedback to improve their skills and techniques. We also invest in continued education and provide budgets for attending conferences.”
Have you hired a coding bootcamp graduate and want to share advice? Have questions about the process? Let us know in the comments below!
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